For years Fayetteville Fire Department’s 1953 Mack fire truck has been parked behind the Lincoln County Museum. Enclosed within a chain link bay of sorts, the old truck’s paint has faded, but thanks to a new department initiative, the truck, dubbed “Maude”, is being given a new life.
While touring around town with the Fayetteville Fire Department’s former interim chief, Jeff Smartt, newly appointed Fire Chief Jim Baldwin spotted the old truck one day, and it intrigued him, not only because it is a unique pumper truck but more because of the possibility that it could be used for the community. Friends of his in Morristown had restored some old fire trucks, he said, adding, “… But not one of them looks like this ‘53 Mack.”
While cleaning out closets and files at the main station, firefighters found multiple old pictures of former firefighters and others posed with old fire trucks. Among those pictures was a photo of the ‘53 Mack truck in its heyday.
In his mind, Baldwin could see the truck restored and driven in the annual Christmas Parade with Santa Claus behind the wheel. He imagined the truck in pristine condition, parked at community events where people could see a bit of history and have their photos taken with it.
Baldwin thought it would be a good project to restore the truck and wanted to get others in the community involved in the project. But first, he met with the museum board and presented his idea and pictures of the truck as it had looked more than a half century ago. For the museum board, it was an easy decision.
Fayetteville Fire Department received the keys to unlock the gate and take it back to the station. When the brakes locked up, Darryl Stovall freed them, and later Capt. Kimbrough added more oil before the move.
Once at the station, firefighters began rinsing off the old truck and cleaning it up. They found that the body was in great condition, the wood in the bed was still intact and the interior seats were still in fairly good shape. The badge on the side of the truck and pin striping were hand-painted, and the fire bell is made of brushed steel.
“We’re going to do a lot of the labor on it – we want it to be immaculate,” said Baldwin, adding that a portion of the parts will be bagged and tagged for restoration. He said the brake system needs to be reworked, and the truck will need special split rim tires. Some parts will have to be sent off to be restored.
“I think a lot of people will be interested in it,” he said, explaining that the restoration project will be an all-volunteer effort – the fire department can’t fund the project on its own. Consequently, the department will be asking those in the community who are interested to contribute to the project once a special account is set up. “The restoration time depends on how much the community gets involved with budgetary restrictions.”
In the future, Baldwin envisions the truck being parked inside a garage on a concrete pad next to the fire department, where old photos and fire hats are displayed for the community. “Make it a memorial room,” he said.
The chief has been taking photos of the truck at each stage since it was still locked within its chain link enclosure. “I’m excited about seeing the whole transition,” he said.